CULTURE: DARRYL W BULLOCK
Q&C's cultural line-up is a good one this month, including a celebration of the National Trust's Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath, exciting gay-themed DVD film releases, Wildean theatre delights and an array of events featuring female trailblazers as part of the annual Women of the World festival.
Here we are again. The year marches inexorably on. I’m writing this in February, but outside it could be April; the daffodils are out, the bluebells are coming through and spring is very much in the air. But it’s still chilly at night, there’s the threat of cold snap on the way thanks to the so-called ''Beast from the East'', and it is far too early to go shopping for shorts just yet.
If you fancy a wander, it is worth noting that Prior Park Landscape Garden in Bath is now open for visitors to enjoy seven days a week. This year marks 25 years of the National Trust caring for the 18th-century landscape, and the team will be celebrating the anniversary with free, twice weekly guided walks to explore the progress made so far to restore the garden to its 1764 state. Walks take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 am throughout the season, and Prior Park will soon be launching a ‘now and then’ exhibition, with easels placed around the garden showing how particular areas looked in the mid-1990s, and explaining the work that has been undertaken since then.
The 28 acre garden was once the home of one of Georgian Bath’s founding fathers, Ralph Allen. Allen’s landscape garden enhances the natural contours of the valley with water features, eclectic buildings and carefully planted trees, and incorporates the stunning views of the city and countryside beyond. As spring arrives the valley comes alive with new shoots, blossoming flowers and buds. The delicate snowdrops give way to yellow daffodils, which then fade into the ever popular carpet of fragrant wild garlic.
When you get back from your walk, why not pull up an armchair, throw another log on the fire, and take a look at some of the next few weeks’ cultural highlights.
I’m sure that many of you will have enjoyed the BBC’s excellent Gay Britannia series, which aired late last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality here in the UK. Out soon from the BFI is Queerama: A Century of Gay Rights and Desires on Film, the excellent documentary from director Daisy Asquith that features a wealth of rare newsreel and amateur film alongside clips from cinema classics of the 20th century to document the gay experience.
Travelling through the last century, Queerama covers persecution and prosecution, injustice, love and desire, identity, secrets, forbidden encounters, sexual liberation and pride, all accompanied by a soundtrack from the wonderful John Grant, Goldfrapp and Hercules & Love Affair. The DVD features extras galore, including an interview with the director and two classic TV documentaries from the 1960s. It’s a great film; I enjoyed it immensely, and if you haven’t already seen it you’re in for a real (or should that be reel?) treat. Watch the trailer here, and add it to your Amazon wish list now!
Queerama is released on DVD by the BFI on 26 March.
While we’re on the subject, on the same day that Queerama is released, the BFI is also issuing a limited edition five-disc set featuring director Derek Jarman’s first six feature films on Blu-ray for the first time. Jarman Volume One: 1972-1986 contains In the Shadow of the Sun, Sebastiane, Jubilee, The Tempest, The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio, and is packed with more than thirty extras and an 80-page book.
Derek Jarman’s films have all been newly scanned at 2K from original film elements and are presented in this lavish box set alongside an exciting array of new and archival extras drawn from the late director’s own archive of workbooks and papers. An icon of gay cinema, Jarman Volume Two: 1987-1993 will be released by the BFI later this year.
Staying with cinema (well, of a sort anyway), a new adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s: Lady Windermere’s Fan is coming to cinemas for one night only on 20 March. Broadcast live from the Vaudeville Theatre in London, award-winning director Kathy Burke (yes, that Kathy Burke) has brought together a talented ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Saunders as the Duchess of Berwick, returning to the West End stage for the first time in over twenty years. Olivier Award-winning Samantha Spiro (probably best known for Psychobitches and Grandma’s House) stars as Mrs. Erlynne, alongside Kevin Bishop, Grace Molony, and Joseph Marcell, who you’ll all remember for his role as Geoffrey the butler alongside Will Smith in hit TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Lady Windermere’s Fan is the second production of the Classic Spring Theatre Company’s year-long season of Oscar Wilde at London’s Vaudeville Theatre. It follows the highly successful A Woman of No Importance which was broadcast live to cinemas on 28 November 2017, and later this year Wilde ‘fans’ (see what I did there?) will be able to enjoy An Ideal Husband (5 June) and camp classic The Importance of Being Earnest (9 October).
Cinema tickets for the live broadcasts are now on sale at www.OscarWildeCinema.com
That leads me nicely on (it’s almost as if I put some thought in to this, isn’t it?) to The Original Theatre Company’s current tour, which features TV stars Gwen Taylor as the imperious Lady Bracknell and Susan Penhaligon as Miss Prism in Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. His most famous and best-loved comedy follows Jack Worthing’s endeavours to marry his friend Algernon’s cousin, the beautiful and chaste Gwendolen. But first he must convince her guardian, the fearsome Lady Bracknell, of his respectability. Wilde’s classic play looks at the clash of town and country in a story of romance, identity, perambulators, and capacious handbags.
Touring from now until May, the production is visiting Bath, Winchester, Manchester, Salisbury, Lichfield, Bromley, Cambridge, York, Eastbourne, and Windsor. Check out your local theatre for dates and tickets, or visit the website.
And finally, if you do have to visit The Smoke, then London’s Southbank Centre is holding its annual WOW - Women of the World festival from 7-11 March. WOW brings together leading voices across culture, business, politics, art, and activism for a packed programme of enlightening talks, debates, music, comedy, poetry and networking, celebrating womankind.
This year’s festival celebrates the seismic changes brought about by women and men historically on gender equality, and identifies the future solutions still needed to overcome modern day challenges for women and girls. The list of performers and speakers is huge, far too long to feature in full here, but includes Diane Abbott, Kathy Lette, June Sarpong, Anna Soubry, Jo Swinson, Sandi Toksvig and Ruby Wax.
Given that this is the 100th anniversary of British women winning the right to vote, WOW celebrates those who have broken silences and changed the world throughout history, and provides space for those still finding their voice. Dr Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Suffragette leader Emmeline, explores women’s rights, then and now, and women on the frontline of global movements, such as Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, join those making a change in their neighbourhoods, like Women for Grenfell, who share their perspective nine months on.
On 8 March The Duchess of Cornwall, President of WOW - Women of the World Festival, will host a reception at Clarence House to celebrate this year’s festival and the growing WOW movement of women and girls, attended by a glittering list of influential women.
Tickets are on sale now at www.southbankcentre.co.uk/wow or on 0203 879 9555